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Sports agency Empics snapped up by PA

Sports photo agency Empics has been snapped up by The Press Association.

The acquisition will merge its vast photo library with that of PA to help boost PA’s position in the syndication market and improve the range of services it can offer customers.

Empics has built up a strong reputation in the sports photography market during the past 19 years, using innovative technology to deliver images to customers, while The Press Association’s photo library has images dating back to the 1890s, and offers customers images from Britain’s most comprehensive news archive over the three centuries.

The Empics collection includes images of football, cricket, rugby, tennis, motor sport, golf, horse racing and many other sports. It also represents work from some of the world’s finest sports specialists, covering everything from international events to grass roots games, key sporting moments, personalities, athletes, fans, venues and ambience.

The two organisations have a combined archive of nearly 9m news, celebrity and sport images, of which more than 1.5m are available to customers online.

Both companies will continue to operate their own picture desk operations.

Empics’ Phil O’Brien said: “For picture buyers, this deal offers a great opportunity to get the very best UK editorial photography combined with the well known standards of Empics service.”

Among Empics’ photo marketing initiatives is its ground-breaking New Media Stills Production service, which delivers, via wireless technology, still images taken at events to customers within 20 seconds.

The revolutionary new service presents significant opportunities for The Press Association, packaging live images with real-time text and data.

Paul Potts, chief executive and editor-in chief of The Press Association, said: “Empics excels in photo marketing, and has successfully embraced new technology to deliver exciting new products to customers.”

Empics started life as East Midlands Picture Services in the summer of 1985 with Phil O’Brien a sole trader operating from an office in Nottingham after leaving his staff job at the Leicester Mercury, a title he worked at since leaving Liverpool, where he had also worked as a press photographer.

His new firm covered news, sport and features around the East Midlands. From 1986 to 1990, he employed other photographers, and spent a large part of each month working for the Sunday Times covering news, politics, business and sports around the country.

But he saw an opportunity to develop his business outside the East Midlands after the success of the agency’s coverage of the M1 air crash at East Midlands Airport. Phil was on the plane behind and his colleagues managed to get the pictures without his involvement, getting seven front pages the next day.

Empics specialised in sport from 1990, a decision made after its success in 1989 in getting the only colour pictures out of Poland to newspapers when England qualified for the World Cup in Italy in 1990.

In 1990, about 95 per cent of the agency’s income was from live coverage, pictures sold to papers within 48 hours. Today, only eight per cent comes from the live coverage.

Phil “hung up his camera” in 1994 to concentrate on business development at the company, a move which seems to have paid off.

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